A Letter from José LaMont Jones, serving in Congo, currently in the United States
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The 224th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, themed “From Lament to Hope,” was a first in many respects. The first on-line GA, history will judge its overall success but the COVID-19 pandemic has opened our eyes to new ways of doing things. We are having on-line meetings, worship services, Bible studies and are able to engage with people far and near in ways we would not have considered possible before. We have seized the moment and are hopefully learning and becoming better.
We find ourselves at a point where “must/need” obliges many of the world to come out of shelter, tally their losses and continue on with life. In lieu of all there was to “think about and reconsider” during this time of sheltering-in-place, I pray that our new normal will be very different than our old normal. We think of ourselves as the culturally and socially advanced species on the planet but the continuous need to check our selfish natures, and recognize the value of others different than ourselves, has plagued humanity since its inception. In fact, we are only slightly better than we can imagine our most savage selves to be.
The reprise of the cry “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) is a re-diagnosis of a disease that has plagued not only our country since inception and has affected peoples of the world diaspora. It is fitting, and indeed comforting, that the rest of the world is reckoning its own culpability, or at least collusion, with a system that is inconsistent with what we know to be right and true to the Christian tenets we proclaim. Yet, our sin does not become our past sin until we change.
Some feel the “BLM” campaign could be taken as a “black-eye” on the American world image. Although we probably have things to be more embarrassed about as a country, being seen as fallible, normal … just like the rest … gives us room to grow. America is powerful because America has been blessed and been shown grace. Being honest with others and ourselves gives us a chance to engage honestly with our past sins, find solutions for more equitable ways to deal with others, and at last, put those sins behind us.
The theme of our upcoming Congo Mission Network Conference for 2020 extrapolates how racism, disparities of the harm caused by world response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and inequality of treatment in world markets have affected the history and situation in Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We must meet our partners on a level playing field; realizing that we are connected by our humanity and are all impacted by injustice and suffering that takes place in the world. It is fitting that the confession that guides our discourse be the Belhar Confession, which calls out the sins of the past as wrong, and points us toward a Biblical foundation for change.
In this year’s conference, we will be looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our ministries and mission projects both here in the United States and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The pandemic continues to impact social interaction and the world economy. At last count, more than twelve million individuals have contracted COVID-19, which account for more than half a million deaths worldwide. Economies are fragile and people suffer. We have much to mourn but there are opportunities to see in the midst of this storm. We have been made to recognize that we are NOT in control. We are subject to the same laws and principles that govern the rest of creation. We have come to recognize our need and dependence on God!
Because our conference will be virtual, many more organizations and individuals will be able to participate without the prohibitive expense of travel and lodging. I encourage you to contact me with the names of churches/organizations engaging with Congolese refugees and nationals who live here in the U.S. so that I can invite them to join in on the Conference. Think of how comforting it will be to Congolese here in the U.S. to know the things that are being done to help their country and family members back home. Think of how better informed we will be when our discourse includes those who have fled violence, poverty, lack of opportunity. Our ministries and advocacy will be better because of that input. I have designed a logo and suggested it to our planning group as we are already beginning promotion of our network meeting to others. A kickoff/worship service is planned for mid-September, and the conference sessions and interactive Zoom discussions will take place in the weeks that follow. Please share the news!
I have also taken time to learn sound enhancement, video editing, etc. as I needed to do some editing work on the recording of my “Meet the Mission Co-worker” Webinar that was held in late May. As we learn the particulars of some of these formats (as well as their limitations), we are getting better. The video is about an hour long and includes a question/answer session. Several of our partners from Congo were able to participate. It was a nice event. I now have copies, if anyone would like to know more about me. Please contact me at: email@example.com.
Thanks again for the warm welcome I have received from the friends and supporters of this ministry. I encourage you to keep me and our Congolese brothers and sisters in prayer during these trying times. Please register and sign-up for the Congo Mission Network Conference and find out how our ministry is evolving and has blessed others. Let me know how you are engaging in this ministry here in the U.S. and in Congo. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated!
To God be the glory!
José LaMont Jones
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